Colonic epithelial miR-31 associates with the development of Crohn’s phenotypes

Authors: Benjamin P. Keith, Jasmine B. Barrow, Takahiko Toyonaga, Nevzat Kazgan, Michelle Hoffner O’Connor, Neil D. Shah, Matthew S. Schaner, Elisabeth A. Wolber, Omar K. Trad, Greg R. Gipson, Wendy A. Pitman, Matthew Kanke, Shruti J. Saxena, Nicole Chaumont, Timothy S. Sadiq, Mark J. Koruda, Paul A. Cotney, Nancy Allbritton, Dimitri G. Trembath, Francisco Sylvester, Terrence S. Furey, Praveen Sethupathy, Shehzad Z. Sheikh


Background: Crohn’s disease (CD) is highly heterogeneous, due in large part to variability in cellular processes that underlie the natural history of CD, thereby confounding effective therapy. There is a critical need to advance understanding of the cellular mechanisms that drive CD heterogeneity.

Methods: We performed small RNA sequencing of adult colon tissue from CD and NIBD controls. Colonic epithelial cells and immune cells were isolated from colonic tissues, and microRNA-31 (miR-31) expression was measured. miR-31 expression was measured in colonoid cultures generated from controls and patients with CD. We performed small RNA-sequencing of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded colon and ileum biopsies from treatment-naive pediatric patients with CD and controls and collected data on disease features and outcomes.

Results: Small RNA-sequencing and microRNA profiling in the colon revealed 2 distinct molecular subtypes, each with different clinical associations. Notably, we found that miR-31 expression was a driver of these 2 subtypes and, further, that miR-31 expression was particularly pronounced in epithelial cells. Colonoids revealed that miR-31 expression differences are preserved in this ex vivo system. In adult patients, low colonic miR-31 expression levels at the time of surgery were associated with worse disease outcome as measured by need for an end ileostomy and recurrence of disease in the neoterminal ileum. In pediatric patients, lower miR-31 expression at the time of diagnosis was associated with future development of fibrostenotic ileal CD requiring surgery.

Conclusions: These findings represent an important step forward in designing more effective clinical trials and developing personalized CD therapies.

Source: JCI Insight, 2018; 3 (19)